Coming Together to be Well: Combating the National Crisis of Loneliness and Isolation
Humans have historically lived in community, bound by shared responsibility and social connection. Today, things look a lot different as our lives have become increasingly siloed from one another. Rather than contributing to the collective action of our shared livelihood, we’re all expected to hunt, gather, cook, work, raise kids, feed the dog, clean, and so on and so forth, by ourselves and for ourselves. It’s busy, it’s heavy, and above all else, it’s LONELY.
We’re all a little deluded into thinking we’re more connected than ever, with dozens of social media platforms tracking our every move. But these connections, when housed on platforms focused on commodifying your attention versus fostering connection, can do more harm than good.
In the United States alone, loneliness rates have more than doubled in the last 4 decades. A staggering 58% of adults and 79% of young adults now report feeling lonely . These statistics highlight the urgency of addressing this issue head-on.
Recently, Dr. Vivek Murthy, the Surgeon General Advisory, released an advisory underscoring the devastating impact of loneliness . Even before the pandemic, approximately half of US adults reported significant levels of loneliness, which increases the risk of mental health challenges and premature death—comparable to the effects of daily smoking. Dr. Murthy also recently sat down for a podcast interview with Rich Roll to discuss this topic in more detail that we encourage people to listen to here.
Startlingly, a long-term study conducted by Harvard University revealed that loneliness poses a higher mortality risk than smoking, alcoholism, or lack of exercise . On the other hand, strong and healthy relationships are a more significant predictor of a long and happy life than social class, IQ, or genetics. It's crystal clear that fostering deeper, meaningful connections is the antidote to this rising tide of isolation.
Recognizing the gravity of the situation, loneliness and isolation have been declared a public health crisis. In response, the Surgeon General's Office has developed a National Strategy to Advance Social Connection.
This strategy encompasses six pillars:
- Strengthening social infrastructure
- Enacting pro-connection public policies
- Mobilizing the health sector
- Reforming digital environments
- Deepening knowledge
- Cultivating a culture of connection
The message is clear: our relationships have the power to heal and enhance our wellbeing.
In the world of wellness, this social-centric approach has led to the development of innovative spaces and experiences designed to bring people together in real life. Businesses that address both health and social needs stand to reap significant benefits. As Dr. Jonathan Leary, Founder of Remedy Place, predicts, "Social self-care will be as big, if not bigger, than the fitness industry" .
It’s no wonder that the appeal of community-based wellness is growing. A recent survey by Mindbody revealed that 43% of people now see community as an essential aspect of wellness experiences. This renewed focus on community and connection has led to the emergence of social wellness clubs. These clubs prioritize group bonding, with wellness experiences acting as a catalyst for social interaction.
At Sauna House, we believe that the bathhouse holds a significant part of the solution to combat loneliness in the post-COVID world. The traditional sauna experience is not just a solo journey of relaxation and rejuvenation — it’s a communal activity fostering real-life interactions and empathetic communication. As the founder of the modern wellness movement, Dr. Jack Travis, succinctly puts it, "Connection is the currency of wellness."So let’s come together and be well.
Citing our sources:
1. Nancy Davis & Susie Ellis (2023) “2023 Wellness Trends" from Global Wellness Summit.
2. Dr. Vivek H. Murthy (2023). "Our Epidemic of Lonliness and Isolation. The U.S. Surgeon General's Advisory on the Healing Effects of Social Connection and Community" Office of the Surgeon General.
3. Liz Mineo (2017). “Good genes are nice, but joy is better” in The Harvard Gazette.
4. Nancy Davis & Susie Ellis (2023) “2023 Wellness Trends" from Global Wellness Summit.